Social Media Isn’t A Distraction At Concerts

mc chris rapper


Ah yes, it’s time once again to explore how social media continues to change the live music experience.

This time Jack White and a rapper are the fodder for this installment of our exploration.

First up is this story via the San Francisco weekly that initially reported that Jack White was posting signs at his shows telling fans not to tweet or using Facebook during the show in hopes of keeping fans focuses on the show and not staring at their mobile phones.

But then shortly after the story was posted the SF Weekly updated their article saying that they had fallen victim to the internet rumor mill and included a response from Third Man Records saying that nobody from Jack White’s crew, label or band was associated with the signs that were seen at the shows.

And to that point, of course, I’ve looked around and never been able to actually find any of the so-called signs at the White shows. If you have any, please send them in or post a link to them in the comments below.

Signs or no signs, there is still a large community of artists and fans who still believe that social media and mobile phones are a distraction and the enemy of engagement during concerts. I completely disagree. More on this in a moment.

The next example of social media impacting the concert dynamic that was interesting to find recently came from rapper MC Chris who evicted a fan for tweeting a rant during show in July about the opening act.

As Forbes reports:

On Tuesday night, a fan at a Powerglove and MC Chris show in Union Transfer arena in Philadelphia was kicked out over a tweet. The fan, identified as Mike Taylor, felt unimpressed by the show’s opening rapper, Richie Branson. He tweeted a short criticism onto his Twitter page: “Dear nerd rapper opening for Powerglove/mc chris. You’re not good enough to pander to me. Better luck next time.”

Apologies have since come from MC Chris and were accepted by the fan. And looking a bit deeper, I found that MC Chris had done this type of thing before last year. Above is a video of the July apology and a video of a similar incident last year.

My Take On Social Media At Concerts

I think it’s a great thing with lots of possibility.

Yes, I go back and forth from no tweeting, Youtubing or audio recording to constantly documenting and sharing my experiences on several social media channels at once during a concert.

But I’m always sure of one thing.

Concerts are filled with all kinds of stimuli. And never in the history of live music have we had so many opportunities to get distracted from what’s going onstage. But seeing social media as just a distraction is wrong.

I see social media as one of the greatest tools we have to better understand what we love about the concert experience. In the past, fans just went to the show and that was it. Maybe you got the live album from the show, saved the ticket stub or stored a memory in your brain that you shared with someone orally years later.

But today because of the power of social media, I’ve had the opportunity to see into the hearts and minds of concerts fans before, during and after the show, and as a result my own concert experiences have been enhanced and become more meaningful.

That said, social media has empowered me to study, explore and better understand what live music does to us individually and as a larger community of concert fans.

We still have a long way to go in our study, but without a doubt, I believe, because of stories like Jack White and MC Chris, we are seeing the emergence of a new dynamic sociological study enfolding before our eyes.

In the past and still today, the impact of music on fans has been limited to laboratories where fans strap on headphones and listen to music in a controlled environment with little opportunity for true emotional engagement and stimulation.

But if we seize the opportunity of using social media to study and explore live music then we will discover much more about our love for live music. And both fans and bands will benefit.

Why Will Both Benefit?

Well, I’ll say it like this.

I know that when I’m moved to tweet or record audio or video at show that’s a major sign that I’m engaged in the show, not distracted.

The show is moving me emotionally, so I tweet what I feel or see, or want to see.

For an artist to simply think that staring at the stage is the only way that fans are engaged during a concert is ridiculous and short-sited. Artists who think this way are missing the point and missing out. They don’t see the golden opportunity to engage their fans.

As we’ve seen with our previous Twitter experiments, most fans that tweet during shows are sharing emotions that would otherwise go unnoticed and uncelebrated. And for artists to tell fans to stop this process is a major loss. If I were an artist I would try to find creative ways to celebrate the fans tweets and blend social media like Ben Foulds did with Chat-roluette.

For Fans The Benefit Is Simple

We are social creatures. We’re emotional beings. We love to connect. It’s in the code of our DNA. And when we share our emotions and experiences during shows we’re being true to our shared genetic code.

And when we see what others are feeling during shows, we become better people because we have turned our focus outward and we are now more aware of the emotional state of those around us.

Better yet, whenever I’ve searched for concert fan tweets, talked with a fan after a show or interviewed someone for an episode of Live Fix Radio, I’ve always walked away with a stronger sense of meaning of my own concert experiences.

But the one thing that I know is the most difficult thing for fans to overcome is moving from a passive state to an active state. It’s the classic concert fans Looky-Loo struggle.

And that’s what I love about what the MC Chris ranter did and those rebellious Jack White fans do even if White isn’t a fan of social media. They went beyond just being passive observers. They took action on what they felt.

It’s what our friends like the Concert Weirdos do when they share the awesomeness of live music as it moves us in real-time. It’s what Alex Miller is doing with the StagePage concert app that allows us to bring order all the media content we create during shows.

All those fans are taking action when the rest of the crowd is remaining passive. They’re sharing their emotional experiences in a new way. They’re pushing our social media experiment forward one tweet and video upload at a time.

What About You?

What side of the social media at concert debate do you sit on? What type of positive and negative experiences have you had?


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